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 Pledge Lab is a collection of articles and essays dedicated to improving the practice and effectiveness of public radio pledge drives.

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The Drive is Over -- Now What?

John Munson

Your Pledge Drive has concluded. Now what do you do? First, take a bit of time for self-care. Pledge drives are physically, mentally, and emotionally draining for everyone. It’s a good idea to take a day or two of normal routine (or in some cases, time away from the station) to decompress after a drive.

 

But then it’s time to get back to work. All campaigns have goals. The most important thing to do after a drive is to check your performance against your expectations. Did you hit your targets in terms of total dollars raised and new givers? What about secondary goals, like gifts of a specific amount? Or total number of givers (new and renewals), sustainers, etc.?

 

Then, look at which dayparts produced the most pledges and revenue. Were there hours that underperformed based on past drives? Conversely, were there hours that did better than expected?

 

The point is to collect as much data as you can as quickly as you can after a drive. Then, set this data aside for further research.

 

What were the demographics of your donors? Assuming you have access to this data, it’s a great question to ask. Measuring by gender, age, and zip code can give you some insights into who the message is reaching.

 

If you’re in a PPM market, take a look at audience numbers for the drive. Pledge Audigraphics can pinpoint problem areas for further study.

 

How about the mechanics of the drive? Where were the problems? Were there technical issues? What about pledge materials and scripts--were they delivered on time? Were they adequate to provide pitchers with the best material to use? Did you have staffing issues? If you use a call center, were there any problems?

 

If you collected comments (and if not, why not?) during the drive, make sure you mine them for messaging in future drives. Marketing may want to look at them as well. Repeating your listeners’ words back to them is a great way to enhance loyalty. Take their verbatim feedback and turn it into future script points or pledge spots. If someone was particularly eloquent, reach out to them to record a testimonial.

 

Remember to assess on-air pitcher performance and provide constructive feedback. This is often the most challenging part of post-drive assessment.

 

For some reason, on-air talent often sees air-checks as a trip to the principal’s office. Air-checks, however, are a great way to accomplish several important tasks for the individual pitcher and for the station.

 

1.       Constant improvement should be the goal of anyone who sits in front of a microphone and talks to listeners. If it isn’t, they should get out of the business. No kidding. I’ve been a radio announcer, voice-over artist, and stage actor for decades and I still insist on being air-checked. Why? Because I’m always looking to improve.

 

2.       Make sure bad habits don’t creep in. It’s easy to get lazy when you pitch a lot. Air-checks are a way to discover this and nip it in the bud. Throwing away lines, rushing through important information like website and phone number, long run-on sentences, getting off the subject – these are just a few of the bad habits even seasoned veterans can fall into when they get tired or bored during a long drive. Regular air-checks are a way to guard against this.

 

3.       Help new pitchers learn how to listen to themselves. People who haven’t been on the air before almost always hate the sound of their own voice. It’s instinctive for us to listen critically and only hear things we don’t like. One of the goals of a good air-check is to make sure the pitcher hears what’s working. This may be more important than hearing what’s wrong.

 

4.       Comparing performance with expectations is always a good thing. This assumes that a clear set of expectations is made known to everyone on the air during pledge beforehand and that there is training offered to ensure same.

 

Regular air-checks should be part of every public radio post-pledge drive assessment. You don’t have to air-check every pitcher every drive but everyone should get checked at least once a year (more often for newer pitchers).

 

The outcome of these post-drive assessments should be reflected in plans for the next drive. If there were problems, address them. If something worked particularly well, see if you can include it as part of the regular pledge routine. Were changes indicated in any of your best practices? If performance didn’t meet goals in some area, can you determine why? If so, adjust for the next drive.

 

 

Make sure that programming, marketing, development (not just membership), and news are included in the post-pledge debriefing/assessment. The whole station has a stake in pledge drives, and everyone needs to be involved in the planning process.

 

Checklists and rubrics can be useful tools in measuring performance. Make sure to create and use them.

 

Planning and producing pledge drives is a year-around process with very little down time. Be sure to monitor everyone’s capacity and spread the work around. This helps to avoid burnout and pledge drive fatigue.

Coach. On-air talent. Pledge Consultant

radioczar2002@hotmail.com

John Munson

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